There are only a few beaches on Oahu where you can avoid hordes of people, and most of these are far from Honolulu. Doris Duke Beach (officially Kaalawai Beach) is one of the very few that are in Honolulu, and it is long enough that a walk along it qualifies as a hike. The reason for the lack of hordes is simple: you can’t see the beach from the road, and how to get to it is not obvious. As a result only a relatively few locals go to this beach. It’s in the Kahala area near Black Point. There are other relatively deserted beaches in this area, but they aren’t nearly as good as this one.
Getting there: From Honolulu, get on to the coastal part of Diamond Head Road, the road that circles Diamond Head. You can reach it by heading east on Kalakaua Ave. in Waikiki, or from the freeway by taking the eastbound King St. exit, and then turning right on Kapahulu and then at its end left at Kalakaua Ave. At the east end of Kapiolani Park Kalakaua swings left and then you turn right on to Diamond Head Road. After passing the lighthouse and the lookout areas, the road forks with Diamond Head Road curving left to go around the other side of the crater, and straight ahead becoming Kahala Ave. At this fork there is a smaller residential street on the right called Kulamanu St.; turn right on it. Then Kulamanu Place goes right from that street and dead ends at the beach. Find street parking on Kulamanu St. or another street in this residential area. Coming from the other direction on Kahala Ave., turn right on Papu and then right on Kulamanu
This narrow beach is definitely better at low tide. The reef comes right up to the shore along most of its length, but there are a few sandy pockets where you can swim. To your left when you first reach the beach is the Doris Duke mansion with its small stone harbor. Local kids love to jump swim in this harbor, and it is very much worth a visit, but the approach to it is slippery and dangerous. Don’t try to go there if the sea is not calm. But just before the harbor is a nice calm area for swimming. Heading west, you can go a long way without seeing many people, and there are some sections where the beach gets pretty wide. How much sand there is will depend on the time of year and the tide. There are several places with nice tide pools. After about three quarters of a mile you reach the Diamond Head Beach Park area below the Diamond Head Rd. lookouts, where you will find more people. This is a popular stretch of beach for gays. From here you can either turn around, or go up one of the paths to the road and go back that way, or continue on. If you continue, soon you come to an interesting area just below the lighthouse where it is mostly rock, and then you reach a point where a road comes down to the shore. You will have to wade in the water if you want to continue on from there.
You can read more about the east end of the beach here.
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